Mikhail Sergachev is a future two-way blueline stud for the Montreal Canadiens.
If you follow hockey prospects on their various paths to the pro ranks, you’re undoubtedly riveted to the action in the IIHF world junior championship. After dining on Christmas turkey, there’s still plenty of drama to feast on.
Both 3-0 atop Group B, Canada and the U.S. are headed for a confrontation today to decide first place in the five-team round-robin while disappointing Russia hopes to even its record at 2-2 by beating Slovakia.
Sweden is romping at 3-0 in Group A ahead of plucky second-place Denmark, which lost a heart-breaking 5-4 OT decision Friday to Switzerland. Defending champion Finland is easily the most disappointing team in the tournament so far, languishing in the Group A basement at 0-3.
There’s so much excitement to come, including a hot competition for the scoring title with Russian Kirill Kaprizov first with eight points, one ahead of Swede Alex Nylander and Canuck Dylan Strome. Canadians Taylor Raddysh and Matt Barzal are tied with two Russians at six points apiece. Raddysh and Kaprizov have the most goals at five each.
With all the attention rightly paid by others to this thrilling annual tournament, I’m going to complete Santa’s naughty-and-nice list for the top prospects all NHL teams that I began last week. Click here to view the first half of NHL squads.
Naughty: It’s unfair to describe Martin Reway as naughty because he has been off skates all season, including Montreal’s training camp, due to a mysterious virus. Nonetheless, the young Slovakian winger is missing valuable development time.
Nice: While several prospects stuck with Montreal and are scoring modestly (Artturi Lehhonen is doing the best with seven goals in 27 goals), 2016 first-round pick Mikhail Sergachev has 15 points in 18 games on the blueline of the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. Known to his Russian countryman as Sergachyov, the husky 6-3, 216-pounder also has 30 PIMs and is plus-8. Do not read anything into his pointless three-game trial with the Canadiens. He will be a two-way stud.
Naughty: After setting a KHL single-season goal-scoring record with 36 in 57 games, Nashville signed Steve Moses to a one-year, $1-million deal. After failing to crack the NHL roster at training camp, Nashville put him on unconditional waivers and he left for SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. So much for leading the Preds to the promised land.
Nice: On the cusp of being graduated from the prospect ranks, Swedish winger Viktor Arvidsson leads the Predators in shots on goal and is second in team scoring with 23 points in 35 games.
New Jersey Devils
Naughty: Mackenzie Blackwood, the reigning OHL goalie of the year, is off to a slow start backing up fellow prospect Scott Wedgewood in the AHL. Blackwood has underwhelming stats of 3.35 and .884, although the Devils are in no hurry for him to develop since they have a good tandem of Cory Schneider and Keith Kinkaid as well as Wedgewood and Blackwood simmering in the minors.
Nice: Dynamic center Michael McLeod has more than a point per game for a dismal Mississauga OHL junior team and has added two goals in three games for Canada at the WJC.
New York Islanders
Naughty: For a fifth-overall draft pick in 2014, Dal Colle is developing slowly, especially compared to Anthony Beauvillier (28th overall last year), who has not looked out of place in 26 games with the Isles. Dal Colle has posted an unremarkable seven goals and seven assists in 30 AHL games.
Nice: Besides the determined Beauvillier, playmaking center Matt Barzal has 19 points (including 17 assists) in 13 WHL outings as well as three goals and three goals in three WJC games so far for unbeaten Canada.
A future No. 2 center for the Islanders, Matt Barzal is producing points at the IIHF world junior tournament.
New York Rangers
Naughty: In his second season in the organization, goalie Magnus Hellberg has taken a step back, posting AHL stats of 3.15 and .898 so far compared to 2.40 and .918 last season with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Henrik Lundqvist will not play forever, but Hellberg will face competition from NHL backup Antti Raanta and Igor Shesterkin, who’s putting up sensation stats in the KHL.
Nice: When back spasms weren’t limiting his participation, Blueshirts’ top prospect Pavel Buchnevich has flashed signs of eye-opening skill that will lead to big scoring totals.
Naughty: Billed as a goal-scorer, Nick Paul has just three goals and 10 assists in 29 AHL games. Mind you, he didn’t do much better in 45 games last season with Binghamton, so he has to start figuring it out or he’ll rapidly be demoted from prospect to suspect.
Nice: It’s hard to single out one nice future Senator because most of their top prospects are performing well. Towering center Logan Brown, the 11th-overall pick in 2016, has racked up 24 points in 17 OHL games.
Naughty: Forward Travis Konecny entered the Christmas break on a 21-game goalless drought.
Nice: Sticking with the Flyers after just two junior seasons, Ivan Provorov turned around a miserable minus-9 in his first 11 games on the Philly blueline to go plus-8 in his next 25 games. Displaying increasing maturity and confidence, he has three goals and 13 assists, and is playing in some important situations.
Naughty: After a slow start in which he was a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh’s first several league games, Derrick Pouliot suffered a lower-back injury Oct. 20 in his season debut and wasn’t recalled by Pittsburgh until Nov. 29. He was sent back to the AHL for conditioning and was back up for only a brief time before being demoted again Dec. 29. Although Kris Letang is injured, the Penguins decided to promote red-hot AHL defenseman David Warsofsky rather than retain Pouliot. The former first-rounder has world-class offensive talent but spotty defense and injuries are conspiring to keep him out of the NHL.
Nice: Pint-sized Conor Sheary is playing way above his height, still riding shotgun on Sidney Crosby’s left side, full of confidence after the Stanley Cup run and totalling 21 points in 30 games so far this season. It seems the versatile coach-pleaser is carving out a top-six career, although he’d drop down to the fourth line in a heartbeat and contribute there if need be.
Conor Sheary is piling up points on a line with Sidney Crosby.
St. Louis Blues
Naughty: Winger Ty Rattie is adjusting to life as a healthy scratch with the Blues. He’s got just one assist in three AHL games and zero points in just four NHL encounters. Unless something changes drastically for the better, Rattie’s fantasy worth might be next to nil.
Nice: Forward Tage Thompson has 20 points in 18 games as a U of Connecticut junior as well as a goal and two assists for Team USA in three WJC games.
San Jose Sharks
Naughty: This is a tough call because all of San Jose’s top prospects have had good first halves. Defenseman Jeremy Roy is off to a relatively slow offensive start with two goals and an assist in 10 QMJHL games, although he is plus-6.
Nice: While top forward prospects Timo Meier, Kevin Labanc and Nikolay Goldobin have all excelled with the AHL’s San Diego Barracuda and Meier and Labanc are even getting some experience with the big club, blueliner Tim Heed has probably been the nicest surprise for the Sharks. The dynamic Swede has 25 points in as many AHL games, including seven goals.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Naughty: While offense is admittedly not this shutdown defender’s strength, Dominik Masin managed 40 points in 57 OHL games in his final junior campaign. A goal, two assists and minus-3 is a slow start in his first full season with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.
Nice: Pint-sized 5-9 LW Nikita Gusev is third in KHL scoring with 52 points in 40 games for SKA St. Petersburg. If Tampa’s seventh-round pick from 2012 crosses the Atlantic in an attempt to join countryman Nikita Kucherov, he would be an intriguing prospect.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Naughty: Straining to locate an underachieving Toronto prospect, I discovered LW Josh Leivo, who has no points this season in one game with the Leafs and five with the AHL’s Marlies. In fairness to Leivo, he’s been hurt.
Nice: Good grief. How do you choose between Auston Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner? Matthews gets the nod with the most goals (18), points (30) and plus/minus (plus-3) in 35 games.
Naughty: Amid rumors of entitlement and conditioning issues swirling around Jake Virtanen, the young man the Canucks pray will be the power forward Cam Neely became in Boston and Jim Sandlak never was is serving his latest stint with Utica of the AHL. After just one assist in 10 games for the Canucks, he has the modest totals of four goals and three assists in 19 games with the Comets.
The Canucks are still waiting for consistent scoring and physical play from first-round draft pick Jake Virtanen:
Nice: While dynamic sniper Brock Boeser has succumbed to wrist surgery, the RW first posted seven goals and nine assists in 13 NCAA games with the U of North Dakota.
Naughty: Because Washington’s top prospects are performing so well, I’m forced to pick on LW Zach Sanford. As an NHL rookie, he was consigned to the Capitals’ bottom six and was scratched sometimes by demanding coach Barry Trotz. Sent down to get some playing time and rebuild his confidence, the lanky Sanford has four goals and four assists in eight AHL games. I hope Santa gave him more than a lump of coal in his Christmas stocking.
Nice: Ilya Samsonov has seized the No. 1 goalie responsibilities for Metallurg Magnitogorsk after winning three straight games while stopping 91 of 95 shots. In 19 KHL games, he owns stats of 2.06 and .936. Near the start of the season, he earned the league’s rookie-of-the-week award.
Naughty: After Ondrej Pavelec was demoted, Connor Hellebuyck began Winnipeg’s season as the No. 1 goalie. However, he’s posted mediocre numbers of 13-11-1, 2.62 and .913. The failure of Hellebuyck to play like a real No. 1 is the main reason the Jets are just below .500 and ahead of only the tumbling Avalanche in the West’s Central Division.
Nice: Well, duh, it’s Patrik Laine. The Finnish Flash (Version 2.0) is tied for second in the NHL with 19 goals and is tied for 24th in points. He’s even plus-7.
Well, we’re past Christmas and soon on our way to 2017. Enjoy the WJC, good luck in your fantasy pools and your real NHL team, and happy new year.
Get your new year off to a good start by reading Hayden Soboleski’s Ramblings column here Sunday.